Despite what appears to be its morbid premise, Kholby Wardell says Ride The Cyclone, the story of a choir killed aboard a roller coaster, is actually very funny.
“As much as it seems to be dark material it is very funny,” said Wardell from Victoria, as he and fellow cast members prepared to bring the show to Vancouver on the first stop of their national tour.
Originally produced at Victoria’s Belfry Theatre in 2009, the home-grown musical tells the story of a teen choir from Uranium, Saskatchewan who meets their fate aboard the Cyclone roller coaster at a traveling amusement park. Taking responsibility for their deaths, a mechanical fortune telling machine gives them the opportunity to perform one final concert where they share their personal stories through song.
Among the choir is the outwardly nice Constance Blackwood (Kelly Hudson), the misfit Ricky Potts (Elliott Loran) and Wardell’s character Noel Gruber, the only gay in the village.
“Noel is the most romantic boy in town,” explained Wardell. “He is pretty dark and really wishes he had suffered more in life. He has this romantic idea of what it means to be human, full of the highest highs and lowest lows, but lived in this town that was, well, normal.”
Complete with fish-nets, Wardell’s character explores those highs and lows by letting loose with a torch song about a desire to escape his rather sad life in Uranium to become a French prostitute during World War II.
Having been with the show since it began, Wardell says that he continues to find more truth and honesty in his character.
“Jacob’s [playwright Jacob Richmond] writing can sometimes be a joke a second, but for it to be funny you really have to believe what you are saying. I continue to discover that truth.”
But more than continually finding something new within his character, Wardell says that even after five different productions, keeping the show fresh is easy.
“Keeping the show fresh has never been a problem,” he said. “It is such an exciting show with so much to do like moving sets and playing instruments that every time I go out to perform it is thrilling.”
Taking the show on the road, with stops currently scheduled in Vancouver, Whitehorse and Toronto, Wardell says he is prepared for being on the road having just toured with Vancouver’s Green Thumb Theatre this past school year. And while looking forward to the shows in other parts of the country, as a Vancouverite, it is the group’s first stop that has him most excited.
“The reactions to the show so far have been really crazy and it is awesome to not only perform it for new audiences but I’m also really excited for some of my friends to see the show for the first time.”
While Wardell emphasizes how much fun audiences have with the show, he says there is a serious side as well.
“As much as I want audiences to walk away talking about how much they enjoyed themselves, there is also this underlying idea about how we deal with mass tragedies. Take the tragedy of 9/11 and the World Trade Center as an example. We talk about how 5,000 people died that day but we sometimes forget that among those numbers there are individuals, with families, with dreams.”
And with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 still fresh in our minds, Ride the Cyclone may be just what we need right now, that delicate balance between the need to grieve AND laugh.
Ride The Cyclone
Revue Stage, Granville Island
28 September – 15 October 2011
It’s a comedy, a tragedy and a musical ride telling the story of a teenage chamber choir from Uranium, Saskatchewan that dies in a roller coaster accident at a traveling fair. Karnack, a mechanized fortunetelling machine, feels responsible for the young choir’s demise and gives the teens a chance to express themselves to the world after death. Ride the Cyclone is their final recital, where they celebrate their individuality while coming to terms with their untimely demise. Visit http://www.ridethecyclonemusical.com for tickets and information.